Fast-Food Prevalence and Disparate Health Outcomes: A Food Justice Analysis of Washington, DC

Authors: Nicole Oveisi*, George Washington University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Food Systems, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: food swamps; food deserts; public health; racial disparities; spatial analysis
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Abstract. Public health officials, community activists, and academic researchers have long been concerned with diet-related health disparities. These concerns are largely related to evidence documenting that racial/ethnic minorities and low-income populations generally fare worse in terms of health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes. More recently, however, research focuses on the structural mechanisms of contemporary urban landscapes that produce spaces of unequal access, like food deserts and food swamps, and lead to disproportionate health outcomes. The absence of healthy and nutritious foods is linked to higher rates of obesity and diabetes in low-income and minority communities, but the relationship between an abundance of fast-food restaurants and disparate health outcomes warrants further attention. Data from Washington, DC’s Department of Health are used to map the location of all fast-food restaurants. This fast-food landscape is evaluated against social and demographic information from census reports as well as data on health outcomes from the CDC’s 500 Cities Project. The preliminary results of my spatial analysis indicate that racial/ethnic minorities and low-income populations in Washington, DC experience disproportionately higher rates of obesity and diabetes relative to the location of fast-food restaurants. These findings in Washington, DC offer additional evidence to support claims that available food choices are linked to health disparities and that these disparities vary widely across population groups and social classes.

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